Following the advice of the tapeworm of UK wine writing, Jancis Robinson, to make like Uriah Heep and be “ever so ‘umble” given at the pompously named WineCreator conference in Ronda, Spain, last week, I visited one of Alsace’s many hundreds of small producers: Domaine Blum in the village of Dorlisheim within sight of the dreamy towers of Strasbourg cathedral. Prices range from €4 for the Epicure 2005 (a Sylvaner sur lies and not that Rupert & Rothschildesque Bordeaux blend made by Gauteng premier Mbazima Shilowa and friends) all the way up to €12 for L’Or des Hussards 2005, an old vines late harvest Gewurztraminer – or Vendages Tardives as they say in Alsace.
The wines are a wake-up call to Old World producers who think they can rip off the public just because they’re in a fancy appellation. They are made by 27-year old flying winemaker Julien Schaal who also makes 8 million bottles of the stuff at the Co-op in the neighbouring town of Traenheim (“home of tears”) – or the Cave du Roi Dagobert as it’s more properly known.
The Blums have been making wine in Alsace for longer than even they can remember and a more traditional winemaking operation is hard to imagine, as is clear from some photographs of their cellar. Fermented in giant oak casks many hundreds of years old and well past their coffee and mocha glory days, the wines have a steely acidity, great fruit definition and impressively long aftertastes that are well worth the visit as the Guide Michelin might say if they ever were to make it into those hallowed pages, something unlikely to happen this millennium, thank goodness.